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Michael Gene BLAKLEY





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Rape
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: July 18, 1998
Date of arrest: 3 days after
Date of birth: October 24, 1977
Victim profile: Shelby Behunin (his girlfriend's 19-month-old daughter)
Method of murder: Suffocation
Location: Bullhead City, Arizona, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on June 23, 2000. Resentenced to life in prison without parole on July 11, 2003

Supreme Court of Arizona

opinion CR-00-0360-AP

ADC# 152228
Date of Birth: October 24, 1977 
Defendant:  Caucasian
Victim: Caucasian

On July 18, 1998, Blakley was babysitting his girlfriend's 19-month-old daughter, Shelby.

Blakley had moved in with Shelby's mother at a motel in Bullhead City. At approximately 4:20 p.m., Blakley called 911 and reported that Shelby was not breathing.

Blakley told investigators that Shelby had fallen out of bed at 5:30 a.m., but appeared to be fine the rest of the day. After Shelby's mother left for work, Blakley explained that he put Shelby down for a nap, but when he checked on her he noticed she was not breathing.

The manager went to the room, where he found Blakley standing by a dresser and Shelby lying on the floor. Shelby was taken to an emergency room, where she died.

Hospital personnel contacted authorities and told them Shelby had suffered anal and vaginal trauma. A medical examiner concluded that Shelby died from either blunt force trauma to her head or from suffocation.

Detectives interviewed Blakley on July 21, 1998. He initially denied having sexual contact with Shelby, but later admitted that he had placed his index finger in her vagina and rectum.

After being informed that the damage to Shelby's rectum was inconsistent with his story, Blakley admitted that he actually used his penis. Blakley also admitted that he put his hand over Shelby's mouth because she was crying.


    Presiding Judge: Steven Conn
    Prosecutors: Matthew Smith
    Defense: Ken Everett & Christian Ackerley
    Start of Trial: February 8, 2000
    Verdict: February 17, 2000
    Sentencing: June 23, 2000

Aggravating Circumstances:

    703(F)(9)-victim under the age of 15
    703(F)(6)-especially cruel, heinous, and depraved

Mitigating Circumstances:

    703(G)(5)-age(20-years-old) lacked specific intent to kill (non-statutory)
    Victim's mother did not want Blakley to receive the death penalty (non-statutory)

Michael G. BLAKLEY ADC# 152228 - 7/11/03- Re-sentenced to Natural Life without the possibility of Parole.


State v. Michael Gene Blakley



Michael Gene Blakley was charged with one count of first degree murder and two counts of sexual assault. He was found guilty of all three charges. He was sentenced to death on the murder count and to two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole for thirty-five years on the sexual assault counts. An automatic appeal to this court was filed pursuant to Arizona Rule of Criminal Procedure 32.1(B).

The defendant, Michael Gene Blakley met Melissa Behunin in April 1998. Less than a week later, the defendant was living with Behunin and her sixteen-month old daughter, Shelby. Blakley lost his job at a fast food restaurant and the couple moved into a motel room at the Arizona Clearwater Hotel in Bullhead City. Behunin started a job at a nearby assisted living facility and Blakley began taking care of Shelby while she was working.

Around five o’clock on the morning of July 18, 1998 Shelby, now nineteen months old, started crying and woke up her mother. Shelby had apparently fallen off the sofa sleeper. Shelby had a little bruise over her left eye. Later that day, Behunin left for work around 12:45 in the afternoon. Prior to her departure, Shelby was acting normally.

At 4:23 PM the hotel manager called 911 and stated that the occupants of one of the rooms had reported that a baby was not breathing. Immediately prior to this, the defendant called the hotel manager and request he call 911. The 911 dispatcher called back to the defendant’s room and instructed the defendant on how to give the child CPR.

When the paramedics arrived, Shelby was rushed to a local hospital. Because of the severity of her condition, Shelby was taken by helicopter to Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas, Nevada. A few hours after arriving in Las Vegas, Shelby was pronounced dead. Dr. Diane Lipscomb, the pediatric critical care physician that attended Shelby, noticed bruising and signs of trauma to Shelby’s vagina and rectum.

The medical examiner who conducted the autopsy testified that Shelby died of anoxic encephalopathy, lack of oxygen to the brain. He found evidence of blunt force trauma to the head. She had a vaginal abrasion and a 3/8 inch tear in her rectum. In his opinion, the genital injuries appeared to have been recent and within the same general time period as the head injuries. He believed that the child was suffocated, most likely by having her mouth and nose covered.

On July 21, 1998 the defendant and Behunin voluntarily went to the Bullhead City Police Department to be interviewed. The defendant was interviewed first and the interview was conducted by two police detectives along with two Child Protective Services Investigators. Blakley was read and waived his Miranda rights. The defendant first stated that after Melissa left for work he washed the dishes and then gave Shelby a bath. Then he laid her down on the bed and laid down with her. Several minutes later, he got up for a drink and noticed she was not breathing.

After the police confronted him with the three hours unaccounted for in his story, the defendant admitted that he had digitally penetrated the victim’s vagina, digitally penetrated her rectum, and placed his penis in her rectum. He stated that after he had done this she was “fussing” and when he laid her down to take a nap she was crying. He said he placed his hand over her mouth and possibly her nose for five minutes and she quieted down.

After the interview, the defendant was placed under arrest. He was charged with two counts of sexual assault and one count of murder in the first degree. On February 17, 2000 a jury found defendant guilty of all counts. After a sentencing hearing, the judge sentenced the defendant to death on the first degree murder charge and two terms of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for 35 years to be served consecutively.



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